Japan and Australia have agreed on a free-trade deal after overcoming differences on cars and agriculture, in a rare opening of Japan's protected markets, even as talks to ink a huge Asia-Pacific agreement run into trouble.
The deal was announced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Tokyo last night.
The deal calls for Japan to gradually phase out its nearly 40 per cent tariffs on Australian exports of beef. In turn, Australia is to end its tariffs on Japanese-made vehicles.
"I hope that thanks to this agreement that Australia can be pivotal in assuring Japan's energy security, its resource security and its food security," Abbott said.
Among the Australian business leaders visiting Japan with Abbott were finance, gambling and mining industry executives.
Gaming mogul James Packer reportedly is among them, seeking local partners for a joint-venture casino that his company Melco Crown hopes to build if Japan passes a new law to allow them.
The announcement comes with Canberra also set to sign a free-trade pact with Seoul today.
Under Abe, Tokyo has entered into talks on the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade deal that would encompass 12 nations including the United States and Japan.
But there are major sticking points among various nations, including the opening of protected domestic markets such as agriculture and cars.
Japan has long been accused of protecting its domestic industries - including the politically powerful agricultural sector - with high trade barriers, while many of its own exports, including vehicles and electronics, enjoy big sales overseas.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press